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The Fornasetti look is a bit like cilantro: people either love it or they hate it. I fall into the love it category, as I have a soft spot for its playful sense of humour. Who can look at founder Piero Fornasetti’s serial drawing of opera singer Lina Cavalieri’s face – imagined as a hot air balloon or petulantly sticking her tongue out – and not smile?

Next year will mark the centennial of Piero Fornasetti’s birth. In a 1987 interview, he resolutely stated, “I refuse to determine the value of an object by its date.” So, maybe it’s a bit ironic to celebrate his designs simply because a few decades have passed. Instead, think of this post as a tribute to timelessness – and the charm of things a little quirky, if not downright odd.

Piero Fornasetti. In 1932, he was kicked out of the Brera Academy, where he was studying how to draw, for insubordination.

The archive of objects designed by Piero Fornasetti boasts more than 11,000 products. Every year, a few designs are selected to go back into limited production as a Re-edition. Above is his Leopardo (Leopard) chest of drawers, created in the 1950s.

At this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, the house of Fornasetti revealed this colourful reimagining of Leopardo, for which the big cat was replaced with Lina Cavalieri’s portrait.

“Design is what the Italians do naturally. Spontaneously. It is restraint, harmony, and balance. Not to exaggerate or overdo. To be careful and rigorous.” – Piero Fornasetti.

More contemporary takes on vintage Fornasetti designs.

Fornasetti “Pansee” wallpaper from Cole & Son.

Every year since 1968, Fornasetti designs a commemorative calendar plate. Only 700 are made and the early editions are now popping up at auctions. Piero’s son, Barnaba, has carried on the tradition since 1989. The 2013 plate will be revealed on November 10th.

Photo credits:
1. Fornasetti.
2. Italian Fashion Designer.
3-13. Fornasetti.
4. Courtsey of Fornasetti.

Author: 

Kimberley Brown

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